St Charles County,  once one of the most conservative suburban counties in the state, appears to be losing that persona. The County Council has prepared big-government ordinances like those to ban smoking in private businesses. Fortunately, so far, they have not gone anywhere. Now the council is considering another “me too” feel-good statute to require prescriptions for cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine. What happened to conservative St Charles County?

First, let’s get it out of the way: I do not smoke except for an occasional cigar, which most establishments do not allow anyway. I’m fine with private businesses not allowing cigars or pipes in their establishments. That’s the way it is supposed to work!

Smoking bans are socialistic in nature. They are essentially advocating for public or common ownership through the implementation of such a ban. I’m often surprised by some of the people who support them. It’s no surprise that O’Fallon, Mo., and other cities across the state voted for big government control over private businesses rather than free market solutions. Cities have always tended to lean toward big government, we-know-best-for-you solutions. Smoking bans are sold as a public health issue. You know – this is for your own good type of programs. The problem is, those choosing to patronize businesses that allow smoking are doing just that – choosing.

There are those who want to eliminate the choice of others to patronize private businesses that allow smoking. The people buying this false bill of goods – most of whom have not considered the impact on personal freedoms and free markets of these “feel good” movements – are essentially saying they have a right to tell a private business how to operate and what it will or won’t be able to offer its patrons. In reality they do – by not patronizing those businesses!

Somewhere along the line I must have missed the part where the people supporting these bans have any skin in the game as to whether the business makes it or not. If the business closes, these same people may grouse about the loss of a favorite place then go somewhere else, none the poorer for their part in the process. The owners of the business should be so lucky.

I am surprised – even shocked – by the fact that a county that has been as conservative as St Charles would consider a county wide smoking ban or the pseudoephedrine prescription requirement. The latter is part of another feel-good movement that may have a temporary impact on meth production, but will have a long-term impact on citizens’ access to legal medicines.

Requiring prescriptions for over the counter medicines will accomplish several things.

  • Delay relief to those who need over the counter remedies that would require prescriptions.
  • Drive up costs to consumers, who will have to pay a co-pay for doctors’ visits.
  • Drive up costs for health care costs, so that providers will either set up a system for routine prescriptions or see an increase in office visits. Both of which will increase health care costs.
  • Drive business to other areas. Many will be willing to drive to nearby non-prescription areas late at night to pick up products for their sick children.
  • Potentially temporarily cause a drop in meth production until another work around is found – and it will be.

Supporters of the prescription requirement will likely tell you that some or all of the above will not happen or there are work arounds. To some degree, I agree. I know we are likely to purchase more of the OTC medicines contained in any ban when we are in an area without a ban to make sure they are available when we need them. Many families – especially those with small children – will likely do so as well.

Health care providers may very well set up a system where it is easy to get a prescription for these medicines in order to be as cost-effective as possible. In so doing, it is likely that the alleged reason for the prescription requirement to begin with is compromised. This certainly can be fixed by making sure there isn’t an easy way to get the prescriptions, but then you drive up costs to all concerned.

There is a reason the state has not and will not pass this very bad idea. It’s a false mantra that when enough localities do it the state will be forced to do so as well. The state has its own bevy of bad ideas, but fortunately it doesn’t always go along with bad ideas from local governments!

It’s really no secret that government regulations drive up costs. In the vast majority of cases, We the People get little to nothing in return for that regulation except increased costs and limited access. That’s exactly what will happen with these bans.

The state constitution and state statutes often dictate that certain items must be presented to We the People for our consent: raising taxes above a threshold previously established, for example. The two proposed bans do not fall into the “required” basket.

Unfortunately, in today’s age, elected officials seem to be afraid to make decisions because of the potential impact on their upcoming elections. It’s easier to punt a hard decision to the electorate, or, worse, play or pander to a group in an attempt to curry favor, hoping the majority won’t remember or pay attention.

Even in local governments we are to have a republican form of government – not a democracy.

Hopefully the St Charles County Council will politely say no on behalf of its constituents to both these very bad, freedom stealing, big-government ideas. If the County Council cannot make the right decisions without punting to the electorate when they are not required to do so, then the people of St Charles County should just say no to the County Council.

Editor’s note: Carl Bearden served on the St Charles County Council from 1992-2000. He served as the first chairman of the County Council from 1993 – 1996.